EU unveils gas saving plan ahead of the coming winter

On 20th of July, the European Commission proposed the introduction of a new target for EU countries to temporarily reduce gas consumption by 15%, with the possibility of making the target legally binding in the event of an emergency.

"We need to be proactive. We need to prepare for a potential total disruption of Russian gas - and that is a likely scenario," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

To mitigate this disruption, the EU presented a Communication to Member States entitled "Save energy for a safe winter" and outlined measures to reduce energy demand.

The plan proposes a voluntary gas demand reduction target of 15%, from 1 August 2022 to 31 March 2023. This measure will become binding if the situation deteriorates. By the end of September, EU countries should have updated their national contingency plans with measures that meet the target.

Europe's gas refueling rate is currently just under 65%, according to Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, but she warned that a Russian gas shutdown could jeopardize the EU's chances of reaching its 80% storage target by November.

"If our demand reduction target is not ambitious enough, we risk facing this winter with empty storage. It would then be impossible to fill them in time for the next heating season," she said, adding that the 15% reduction target would "limit the risks significantly".

According to the EU executive, "the energy saved in the summer will be useful for the winter". The measures it proposes echo those of the International Energy Agency and include steps such as tuning air conditioning systems.

When the heating season starts in October, national governments can also save gas by asking households to turn down their thermostat by 1°C - and mandating reduced heating in public buildings, offices and commercial buildings.

In the event of severe gas shortages, industry will be the first to suffer, although essential services such as electricity generation are likely to be prioritised and preserved.

Private households and essential social services, such as schools and hospitals, will be the last to be cut because they are 'protected customers' under EU legislation.

"Households are protected customers and there should be no risk of disruption. Gas fired home heating is protected but everyone can and should save gas and we will continue to promote the ideas set out in the EU Energy Saving Plan. We will ask all Member States to launch awareness-raising campaigns to encourage this behaviour," said Simpson.

To avoid the need for cuts, gas consumption could also be reduced through market-based measures, such as auctions for industrial users to offer compensation in exchange for demand reductions.

In the meantime, the European Commission is advocating that countries switch more quickly to renewables and use other sources of power generation, including coal in the short term.

Read more: